By Michael Somerby EBS STAFF
In late December, The New York Times released, for me, one of their most impressionable pieces of the calendar year. It regarded Chinese food.
You see, the torrent of copy relating to partisan discord, crumbling socio-political ties around the globe, Jeffrey Epstein, the ongoing impeachment and catastrophic, species-exterminating fires in Australia, among other charming subjects, rendered a malaise smoothie I became increasingly uninterested in drinking further.
Then, an article about the rapidly progressing rate of closing Chinese food restaurants, a nationwide phenomenon, broke the mold.
I’m not excited by the loss of Chinese food options in the U.S.—Chinese food was, is and forever will be a staple of my dining repertoire. What does encourage the psyche in this time of unease, however, are the reasons behind the shuttering doors and woks put out to pasture.
Chinese Americans, those that immigrated in the last 50 or so years and opened “Chinese food” restaurants, specifically, are climbing the rungs of American socioeconomics and no longer need to serve food to get by. In other words, the subsequent generations born in the U.S. are proving there is still yet hope for the American dream, shirking aprons and hot, steamy kitchens for college educations and higher-paying, white-collar jobs.
This is reason to celebrate. Of course, whether we were all aware or not, near-total assimilation into American culture has been there from day one when it comes to Chinese food—you didn’t actually think sesame chicken was a true blue dish from the Far East, did you?
In honor of those nights spent round a lazy Susan in your local dim sum joint, those moments using chopsticks to pluck the last pieces of moo shu pork from the bottom of a takeout carton, and all the notes and flavors Chinese food restaurants have brought to the U.S.—albeit in American-friendly packaging—I present a recipe for chicken and pork lettuce cups.
This was one the first dishes I learned in college to save a few bucks, and just like sesame chicken, the dish isn’t actually truly Chinese or truly American. But it’s delicious and that’s 99 percent of what actually matters, anyway.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- 1/2 pound ground chicken
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 clove garlic, minced
- 1 small white onion, diced
- 1/3 cup hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon ginger, grated
- 3 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
- 2 green onions, sliced
- 1 Serrano chili, sliced (optional)
- 1 bunch cilantro, chopped (optional)
- 1 head butter lettuce
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat
- Add the pork and chicken, breaking into small bits and cooking 4-6 minutes until browned
- Drain excess fat
- Stir in onions, garlic, olive oil, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger and Sriracha
- Cook until the onions become translucent
- Stir in green onions and chili, cooking another 1-2 minutes
- Remove from heat, salt and pepper to taste
- Scoop into washed butter lettuce leafs, top with pinch of cilantro